Saturday, July 13, 2024

US opposes Israeli plans for ‘buffer zone’ in Gaza

The White House spokesman rejected plans by Israel to establish a "buffer zone" within the Gaza Strip and stressed such a proposal is at odds with the Biden administration's stated policy.

“We do not want to see the territory of Gaza reduced in any way. We won’t support that,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

Kirby declined to outline any diplomatic conversations the US has had with Israel about the matter, but emphasized that Washington has “been very clear and consistent, both in private and publicly, that we do not want to see the territory of Gaza reduced in any way”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also said Washington will not support Israel creating so-called “buffer zones” permanently in Gaza that would effectively reduce the size of the Palestinian territory.

“When it comes to the permanent status of Gaza going forward, we’ve been clear, we remain clear, about not encroaching on its territory,” Blinken stated at a news conference in Abuja, Nigeria.

However, Blinken stressed that there may need to be “transitional arrangements” that provide “necessary security arrangements” to allow Israelis who fled areas adjacent to Gaza after October 7 to return.

Blinken also maintained that Gazans who fled their homes must be allowed to return and that Palestinians be able to govern themselves.

Israel has since December been moving toward the establishment of its more than half-mile “buffer zone” inside Gaza along the border with Israel, destroying buildings in the area to make way for the corridor.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has elicited furor in Egypt after saying publicly that Israel wants to take control of the border area between Gaza and Egypt. Netanyahu said Saturday the 8.7-mile (14-kilometer) strip, which is known in Israel as the Philadelphi Corridor, “must be in our hands”.

Diaa Rashwan, the chairman of Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS), stated Cairo would consider any attempt by Israel to occupy the area as a “violation of the security agreements and protocols signed between it (Israel) and Egypt”.

“It must be strictly emphasized that any Israeli move in this direction will lead to a serious threat to Egyptian-Israeli relations,” he added.

Nearly 25,500 Palestinians have been confirmed killed in Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7. Thousands more are feared dead under the rubble.

The vast majority of Palestinians who have been killed, an estimated two-thirds, are women and children.

Israel began its war in retaliation for Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel in which an estimated 1,200 people are believed to have been killed. Roughly 250 others were taken back to Gaza as hostages. More than 100 remain detained in the coastal enclave.

The Israeli offensive has left 85% of Gaza’s population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israeli leaders are offering genocide and ethnic cleansing to Palestinian people, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said Tuesday.

Al-Maliki added Israel has denied Palestinians existence, rights and humanity — whether in Gaza, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, or Palestinian refugees or Palestinian prisoners.

“They do not see our people as an empirical and political reality to exist with, but as a demographic threat to get rid of through this displacement or subjugation,” he stated at a UN Security Council meeting on Gaza.

“These are the choices they offer us; genocide, ethnic cleansing or apartheid. I know some here are uncomfortable with these words, but they are the reality that we live under,” al-Maliki continued.

He said there are only two paths ahead for the conflict between Palestine and Israel.

“One that starts with Palestinian freedom and leads to shared peace and security in our region, or one that continues denying this freedom and dooms our region to further bloodshed and endless conflict,” he added.

The foreign minister also took aim at the Israeli PM, saying, “Netanyahu boasts publicly and repeatedly that he played the key role in preventing the independence of the Palestinian state and peace in our region and pledges to continue doing so.”

“Israel should no longer entertain the illusion that there is somehow a third path whereby it can choose (to) continue to occupation and colonialism and apartheid, and somehow still achieve regional peace and security. This is not a viable path, nor illegitimate,” he added.

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